As parents, we were anxious to hear the first words of our children, and before we knew it, the well-known chirp of “What’s that?” quickly became an everyday occurrence. From that time on, we have been eager to satisfy our children’s curiosity by enthusiastically filling in the blanks of information. Experts have long known that children are not empty vessels to be filled with knowledge, and yet “What’s that?” has become the starting bell of our desire to make sure they are given as much information as possible.
How do we make a change so that children become thinkers instead of beautiful receptacles that we habitually fill with information? We hold our tongues! Catch ourselves mid-sentence and consider what we’re offering: are we offering information or an opportunity for our children to think and wonder?
In the Early Childhood and Lower School science lab, in an effort to draw more out of our youngest scientists, the adults intentionally save our words instead of sharing them with the students. Since the lab is shared by five grades, it is always changing…. always something in progress, something new or different, and our scientists want to learn about it. They want to know what things are called, what things do, how they work, what they are for, and if they’ll have the opportunity hold, touch, or use whatever it may be. And so, we teachers wait. We wait for the kids to make observations and ask questions regarding their observations. No more “What’s that?” Rather, “I noticed…” or “I observed…” and then, “I wonder why or how…”
Even still, the initial question alone is not license to joyfully expound on the wonders of whatever it may be. We often respond with a question of our own, prompting the children to go deeper and make more observations, or we answer what is asked and then wait. We wait for the curiosity to continue. For the child to realize that he or she is not yet satisfied and that there is another question lingering on the brain. We wait for the scientist inside to pinpoint just what more it is that he or she wants to know. And then, we set the stage for them to figure out the answers themselves and go forward together as lea